Stephen Sondheim's Broadway musical "Company" has a title that refers to the companionship provided by the main character's friends, but it also essentially refers to the acting company that's called upon to do so much singing, dancing and acting.
In that respect, it plays to advantage that two of the couples in the enjoyable Silhouette Stages production at Slayton House Theatre are played by real-life married couples. The banter flowing on stage may have been rehearsed across their kitchen tables.
This is a definite advantage in a show that's fixated on the relationships that bind a group of thirtysomething New Yorkers. That's why the main character, Robert (Ryan Geiger), is so troubled. Although most of his friends are either married or engaged, he's a 35-year-old professional whose single status is openly discussed by the friends gathered for his birthday party.
This production is anchored by Geiger's relaxed performance as Robert. The actor embodies the affable traits that make Robert such a magnet for friends, while also bringing out the low-grade anxiety that Robert has about still being a bachelor. Best of all, Geiger has a singing voice that can rise to the occasion without showing any strain. He puts that voice to good use in numbers including "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive."
As upwardly mobile types in a city defined by the silhouetted skyscrapers at the back of the set, Robert's friends are not shy about offering marital advice.
The chatty couples are Sarah (Darlene Rocco) and Harry (Johnny Rocco), Susan (Elizabeth Higbee) and Peter (Patrick Mason), Amy (Ashley Gerhardt) and Paul (Jim Gerhardt), Joanne (Conni Ross) and Larry (Stuart Kazanow), and Jenny (Jessica Hendrick) and David (Rick Robertson).
These actors are having so much fun with their roles that it makes them fine, er, company. The best comic performance comes from Ashley Gerhardt as Amy, whose pre-wedding jitters are incisively captured by the song "Getting Married Today." Gerhardt makes Amy such a bundle of nerves that you smile every time she appears on stage.
Another performer who really delivers when it counts is Conni Ross as Joanne, whose jaded attitude is brilliantly expressed in one of Sondheim's most famous songs, "The Ladies Who Lunch."
Although the actors in other principal roles vary in their strength as soloists, their voices mesh wonderfully in such ensemble-oriented numbers as "Company," "Sorry-Grateful" and "Have I Got a Girl for You."
When we also briefly meet three of Robert's very different former girlfriends — Marta (Heidi Toll), April (Danielle Sherry) and Kathy (Gayle Gillespie) — we immediately realize that this particular dating game isn't likely to produce a winner.
The directors of the Silhouette Stages production, Conni Ross and Debbie Mobley, make the most of the comic tone pervading the vignettes through which we meet Robert's circle of friends. They and actor Ryan Geiger don't push further, however, into psychologically exploring a nice-guy character whose bachelor status may indicate he has self-centered and superficial qualities.
If this production certainly could do more with its character analysis, it's less certain what could be done with this 1970 musical's rather dated book by George Furth. Today's unattached professionals might find it odd that the 35-year-old Robert's peers are so unhinged by his unmarried status, and also that these characters describe themselves as being middle-aged.
Also dated are many of the jokes about smoking pot, doing karate and going to a groovy disco. It's probably best to just chuckle at such period references and acknowledge that "Company" qualifies as a societal time capsule of New York in that era.
One thing that has not dated at all are the songs and lyrics that bring out timeless emotions. Seated at an on-stage piano that he plays well, music director Michael Tan is accompanied by Chris"Lucky"Marino on percussion, Melissa Gnibus on reeds and Gordon Green on bass guitar.
It's a nice touch that the hard-drinking characters treat the top of that piano as an elegantly polished surface for their bottles and glasses. With so much music and booze at hand, it's inevitable that the guests will sing more than "Happy Birthday" at Robert's party.
"Company" runs through May 20 at Slayton House Theatre, 10400 Cross Fox Lane in Wilde Lake Village in Columbia. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15- $18. Call 410-637-5289 or go to http://www.silhouettestages.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun